Friday 1 May 2020 marks 26 years since the tragic loss of Ayrton Senna at the 1996 San Marino GP. We look back at the time Autocar spent a day with the racing legend at Silverstone.
Sunday 23 June 1991, 6:30pm, Kidlington Airport – Michael Harvey reports
The sky is as bleak as the three grey stripes on the flanks of Ayrton Senna's British Aerospace HS125, making the arrival of the Formula 1 world champion in Oxfordshire difficult to spot. He's filed three different flight plans today for this short hop from Paris, but lands on the dot of 6.35pm.
Senna is first off the plane, his plain white Reeboks and straight uncuffed jeans sliding into sight first on the blind side of the aeroplane. He is slighter than you might think, but big in the chest and arms beneath the pale blue cotton short-sleeved shirt and the red McLaren bomber jacket.
The Honda PR man is standing beside me with his little boy, Jack. Jack wants to know if Senna can fly aeroplanes like he drives cars.
"No‚" says dad, "but he flies his own helicopter back in Brazil." Jack is impressed; has Senna really got a helicopter as well as a racing car and an aeroplane? "Oh yes," says dad. "He's got everything."
Today he has a Honda NSX as well. The all-alloy supercar is parked just the other side of the airport building, but Senna has to talk to customs, immigration and Jack before he can get in the Honda; Jack looks like he's going to faint when Senna asks him if he's been a good boy. An affirmative answer gets him a badge.
7pm, Oxford ring road
Even world champions get stuck in traffic jams, and Senna drops the NSX's window down as the big Honda slowly lines up behind at least a mile of traffic. "Oh nice!" he says, his English as soft and clear as a choirboy. "Looks really bad," he concludes.